Monty Brewster is a penniless, former U.S. Army soldier back from World War II Europe who learns that he has inherited $8 million from a distant relative. But there's a catch: he must spend... See full summary »
Monty Brewster is a penniless, former U.S. Army soldier back from World War II Europe who learns that he has inherited $8 million from a distant relative. But there's a catch: he must spend $1 million of that money in less than two months before his 30th birthday in order to inherit the rest. But since he cannot tell anyone about him spending the money as part of the agreement, everyone thinks that Brewster has flipped when he practically knocks himself out on a spending spree to get rid of the $1 million in time. Written by
"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 31, 1947 with Dennis O'Keefe reprising his film role. See more »
When a phone rings on Brewster's desk, he picks up the wrong phone. His friend answers the ringing phone and passes it to Brewster and then places Brewster's hand set on the ringing phone's cradle, which would have ended the phone call. Brewster finishes his call and puts the handset on the other cradle. Then that phone rings and he has another conversation which is also impossible. See more »
Back in high school, I'd read about BREWSTER'S MILLIONS (1945) in Peter Noble's "The Negro in Films" and how it was banned in Memphis when it came out because "the Negro acted too snappy and socialized too much with white actors in the film," a reference to Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's role in the film. In the decades since, I've been eager to see what sounded like a groundbreaking film from the margins of Hollywood and only finally got the chance when cable station TCM ran it on February 2, 2009.
Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that Eddie Anderson is in the film a lot (he's billed fourth) and he gets pretty much all the funny lines, which makes sense given that he's one of the few cast members experienced at this kind of screwball comedy. His character, Jackson, is an integral part of the action and a key ally of the white protagonist, Brewster (Dennis O'Keefe), a young man who's the recipient of a sudden inheritance of $8 million, but only on the condition that he first spend $1 million in 60 days, under specific restrictions and without telling anybody why.
The bad news is that Anderson's character is treated as a servant throughout, despite also being, like Brewster, a war veteran, having served with the navy in the South Pacific. Yet when Brewster returns from the war to a warm homecoming in Manhattan at the beginning of the film, Jackson is already back at his old job working for Mrs. Gray (Nana Bryant), a widowed white woman whose daughter, Peggy (Helen Walker), is Brewster's fiancée. When we first see him, Jackson has his white custodial jacket on and is back cleaning windows and serving drinks, as if the war had done nothing to improve his prospects or expand his ambitions. And when Brewster first gets news of his windfall, he promises to back all his friends' business ambitions, but when he turns to Jackson, he simply promises him "a job for life." Once Jackson goes to work for Brewster after the deadline for spending the $1 million begins, Brewster sets him up as "Vice President of the Switchboard," but then starts spewing out errands for Jackson to run, instead of letting him assign the menial tasks to someone else.
There was a time when simply the idea of Eddie Anderson having such a large role in a film without Jack Benny would have been enough to excite me. But I've seen some of the films he did with Benny and his Rochester character was much better treated in those films, with an amazing and thoroughly unique comic rapport on display between the two. (I'm thinking particularly of THE MEANEST MAN IN THE WORLD from 1943). Also, I've since seen and read more about black soldiers in WWII and their experiences afterwards, so I'm a bit more sensitive to the way Jackson's war experience is referenced and then quickly forgotten about while Brewster and his two buddies are treated as war heroes.
The idea of having to spend $1 million in 60 days without being able to explain why is a great premise for a comedy, but this version never really capitalizes on it. The joke here is that everything Brewster does to get rid of the money inevitably winds up returning on the investment, violating the main condition of the inheritance, which is to have absolutely no assets at the end of the 60 days. He buys bad stocks and they go up. He buys a nag of a racehorse and it comes from behind and winsan event they somehow manage to watch...on television! Everyone Brewster spends money on wants to give money back or simply refuses to get paid, further frustrating his plans. It would have been funnier if there'd been con men and scam artists coming out of the woodwork trying to take advantage of him only for their efforts to backfire as well. Instead, everyone's incredibly honest and good-hearted. When this much money is in play, particularly in a city like New York during wartime, there's bound to be rampant corruption on hand, but, astoundingly, there's no sign of it here. What this means is that a moderately entertaining comedy with a handful of good performers is never as funny as it should be and lacks the edge it ought to have.
Furthermore, leading man Dennis O'Keefe is too unflappable and in control to convey Brewster in his more flustered and desperate moments. He never really acts like he's got anything to lose. There's little in the way of fear or a sense of disruption, even when his girl walks out on him. O'Keefe was a fine, stalwart, all-purpose leading man in a variety of genres (check out THE FIGHTING SEABEES and T-MEN), but this comedy needed someone a little more off-balance to generate some suspense and make it work.
8 of 12 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?